Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Caught my second ever screening of IFC Center’s annual Oscar Animated Shorts Showcase. Once again, this year’s nominees (with one major exception) revolve around a common theme: the unbreakable bond between parent and child.
I’d previously seen Bao in front of Incredibles 2, of course, but it remains a beautiful, charming story; honestly, it’s probably better the second time around, when you already know the twist (the adorable cartoon dumpling symbolizes the overprotective mother’s estranged son). As much of a tearjerker as it is, however, Cartoon Saloon’s Late Afternoon tugs on the heartstrings just a bit harder, taking viewers on a vivid, colorful journey through an elderly woman’s disjointed, fractured memories—ending with her realization that the kind young lady she’s been chatting with is her own daughter.
One Small Step is slightly more upbeat, but no less poignant, chronicling a shoemaker’s efforts to encourage his daughter to pursue her dream of becoming an astronaut. Weekends, meanwhile, approaches the subject of family from a different angle altogether, finding equal measures of humor and horror in a little boy’s struggle to adjust to his new routine following his parents’ divorce—especially after they both begin new romantic relationships.
The only real outlier is Animal Behaviour, a very silly (and very Canadian) sketch about anthropomorphic mammals, insects, and parasites attending group therapy in order to overcome such self-destructive behaviors as obsessive grooming, butt-sniffing… and eating their partners during sexual intercourse. It’s cute, but lacks the emotional resonance of its fellow contenders.
Look, let’s not kid ourselves: Pixar is bringing home the big prize on February 24, because in this particular category, name recognition is the only thing that matters to the voters. Still, I’m thankful that the ceremony will at least bring increased attention to some talented artists whose work might otherwise have gone overlooked.